Brandon Knight has played baseball across the world in such cities as New York, Fukuoka, Daegu, and Seoul. Having played for the Samsung Lions and currently for the Nexen Heroes, Knight is a KBO veteran who has won a bronze medal representing the United States at the 2008 Summer Olympics, named a KBO All-Star this season, and is currently helping Nexen make a push for the playoffs.
Brandon was kind enough to participate in an interview via e-mail with MyKBO. MyKBO would like to thank Brandon for taking the time to answer the following questions.
MyKBO: Congratulations on being named an All-Star this year. What was your first KBO All-Star experience like?
BK: Thanks. It was fun to be around the other players. It is a nice experience to be around guys that you typically are competing against, in a more relaxed and fun atmosphere. You get a chance to see their personalities away from the stresses of trying to win a baseball game.
MyKBO: What made you decide to continue your career in Asia? What knowledge did you have about the KBO and Korean baseball?
BK: Playing here was the best opportunity to provide for my family. Being AAA, you never know when you might get released for being too old or in the wrong position. When you play in Asia, if you are conducting yourself with class and playing well, you will have a job. That is comforting for someone who has been playing as long as I have.
I didn't have much knowledge of Korean baseball until the Beijing Olympics. I was familiar with Park Chan-ho and Kim Byung-hyun but that was about it before then.
MyKBO: What are some of the on and off-field similarities that you have seen or experienced between MLB, NPB, and KBO? What are some of the differences?
BK: Well baseball is baseball wherever you go. 9 innings, 3 outs, etc. The differences are in the details. The best available players in the world from all nationalities play in the MLB. There is so much depth of talent there and also a large pool of talent to pick from. In Japan and Korea, you are dealing with a smaller pool of guys so the overall talent isn't there. The glaring on-the-field differences that I've seen here are the lack of quality overall defense and lack of pitching depth. Way too many mistakes are made on the defense, which proves very costly over the course of a season. But as we've seen from the WBC and the Olympics, the best Japanese and Koreans can compete and beat the best from any other nation. I feel very lucky to share the field with these guys.
MyKBO: You’ve played in the KBO since 2009, what on-field and off-field changes have you noticed in KBO since you arrived in Korea?
BK: I haven't really noticed much on-the-field differences. But the biggest thing off-field is definitely fan enthusiasm. It is very obvious that baseball is gaining in popularity every year. It's most noticeable in stadiums like Mokdong and Daejeon. There was always good attendance in Busan and Seoul, but now fans are really getting behind the other teams in the league. When I was with Samsung and even last year with the Heroes when we were at Mokdong, there were usually more visiting fans than ours. That is not the case now. Attendance has been great and our fans are really pulling for us.
MyKBO: Who is one of the toughest KBO batters for you to face?
BK: It really varies from year to year but this season it is probably Kim Tae-kyun. He is a very selective hitter with power and makes adjustments really well. You can't just throw him the same pitch and expect to get him out.
MyKBO: Have you changed as a pitcher since you’ve played in Asia?
BK: Absolutely. When I first got here I was going to come after you with a four seam fastball and slider. More of a power style pitcher. Last year I developed a sinker and it has really changed the way I approach pitching. I throw that pitch 75 to 80% of the time. I get a lot of ground balls and quick outs now. It has helped to keep my pitch counts down and allowed me to pitch deeper in games. I don't get many strikeouts now but that is fine with me.
MyKBO: In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, you had the honor of playing for Team USA. What was your Olympic experience like? Did you attend any of the ceremonies or attend any other events while you were there? Do you think baseball should be placed back into the Summer Games? Also, have you watched any of this year’s Summer Olympics?
BK: The Olympics was pretty unbelievable. It was such an unexpected honor for me. I never thought I would have the chance to be on the team at my age. The opening ceremonies were incredible...and incredibly hot! Not sure if I've sweat so much in my life. The Chinese really did a great job with the ceremonies. It was so well thought out and well choreographed. The highlight was when the guy was running around the top of the 'Bird's Nest'. So unexpected and exciting. Something I'll take with me for the rest of my life.
I absolutely think baseball should be back in the games. Baseball is really gaining popularity globally and I think baseball is a very good display of both mental and physical ability.
I haven't really watched much this year. They are on late and I don't get much time to watch TV. The kids are usually watching Super Why or Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.
MyKBO: This season, Nexen is in a race for the playoffs. What are some of the key differences between this year’s team and last year’s?
BK: Maturity is a big key for this team. Kang Jung-ho and Park Byung-ho have really grown up and are 2 of the best players in the league. Andy Van Hekken has been really strong for us and is on his way to a 10 win season. I like the overall confidence that this team has as opposed to last year. This team believes.
MyKBO: What’s your opinion on the designated hitter rule? In the future, would you like to see the KBO allow pitchers to bat?
BK: As a pitcher, the more times I don't have to face an extra hitter the better. I prefer National League style baseball. There is a little more strategy involved but the DH is not going away. People want to see hitting and understand that. The strength of the KBO is the hitting so I really doubt they would put the bat in the hands of a pitcher.
MyKBO: Next season, there will be 9 teams in the KBO. Do you think KBO can handle a 10th team? Would you like to see a 10th KBO team?
BK: I definitely think the KBO can handle another team and I think the sooner the better. Having 9 teams is going to be a nightmare next year.
MyKBO: What memories do you have of your MLB debut? How nervous were you when you took the mound?
BK: It was very exciting. I remember jogging to the mound at a sold out Yankee Stadium. I made sure to take it all in. I didn't keep my head down and try to block it out, I wanted to absorb the whole experience. As I was throwing my warm up pitches the crowd started cheering really loud. I turned and looked at the scoreboard and it said I was making my debut. That was really cool. I struck out the first guy I faced but then proceeded to give up back to back home runs. Humbling.
MyKBO: If you could pitch to any batter in baseball history, who would choose and why?
BK: Brady Anderson...Wouldn't throw him the change up this time. Haha. Seriously, there have been so many great hitters to play this game. Not sure I could choose one. Ruth, Mays, DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Barry Bonds. What an incredible challenge it must have been to face any of those guys.
MyKBO: What are some of your favorite places to visit and go to in Korea?
BK: To be quite honest, I haven't really gone anywhere. Took the kids to Lotte World last year which was fun but very difficult. Trying to corral 3 boys in that place is a challenge. I'm a history buff so I would like to visit War Memorial Museum.
MyKBO: If you weren’t playing baseball as a profession, what do you think you would be doing right now?
BK: I'd be a firefighter, no question about it. I considered doing it after I was done playing but it's kind of late in the game to be starting that kind of career. Plus, my wife is nervous enough when I pitch. Imagine how she would feel if I was risking my life everyday.
MyKBO: What sports did you play as a kid? Did you always want to be a pitcher?
BK: The only organized sport I played was baseball. I played all the other sports with the neighborhood kids but stuck to baseball. Wanted to play football in high school but my dad talked me out of it. As far as pitching goes...I always pitched, but I never wanted to make it a career. I wanted to hit and play defense. That was all I ever practiced. I love being on the mound when it is my day to pitch but I really wanted to play everyday. When I was drafted by the Rangers and they decided they wanted me to pitch I was very disappointed.
MyKBO: Growing up, who were some of your favorite athletes?
BK: Steve Sax, Magic Johnson, Don Mattingly, Will Clark, and Roger Craig. I liked guys who had reputations as hard workers and great competitors.
MyKBO: Other than Mokdong, what’s your favorite KBO stadium to play in and why?
BK: I like playing in Busan. Great energy from the fans, very good hitting team, great attendance and a grass field.
MyKBO: Have to ask the always infamous question…what’s your favorite Korean food?
BK: Yeol tan bulgogi (열탄불고기), doenjang jjigae (된장 찌개). I like good homemade kimchi especially if it is good and salty.
MyKBO: Favorite movie? Favorite TV show? Favorite music?
BK: Tombstone is my favorite movie. Favorite show is CSI, but my wife and I are really getting in to Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and The Walking Dead. I like all kinds of music but favorite is Pearl Jam, Metallica, and Pink Floyd.
MyKBO: What are some of your hobbies that you like to do in your free time?
BK: Golf, but with kids I don't get a chance to play very often.
MyKBO: Best and worst part about being a professional athlete in a foreign country?
BK: The best part about playing overseas is that you are brought here to be one of the top players. You get a chance to showcase your skills and be someone a team can really rely on. But on the other side of that coin is the pressure to succeed and constant fear of being sent home. In most cases you either produce or you're gone and I can accept that.
MyKBO: Any final words to your fans in Korea?
BK: The fans have been so good to me. I'm not a really outgoing personality so you won't really see any fist pumping or yelling. I'm certainly not much of an entertainer but the fans seem to accept me for who I am which is awesome! I really like to go out there and pitch well and help the team win and show good effort. When I have a good inning and they chant my name it really makes me feel good. I might not act like I hear it but I do, and I'm smiling from ear to ear inside.